“Write Every Day,” They Say: Does Editing Count?

What exactly counts as writing?

Today’s post is about something I’ve often wondered about. It’s common advice to aspiring writers that they must write every day: you MUST MUST MUST write EVERY SINGLE day. In “On Writing,” Stephen King makes a big deal out of this: he says he writes on holidays, on his birthday, 365 days a year. The thinking behind this mandate is, if you’re working on a project the length of a novel, you must make SOME progress each day, even it’s barely anything, to keep the storyline and characters fresh in your mind. You have to keep momentum going. Once you leave a project, it’s difficult to come back and finish it. It’s not impossible, but it’s a challenge, so it’s better to just power through if you can by writing every single day, even if that’s for half an hour or even fifteen minutes. For encouragement, people note that if you write one page a day, in a year you can feasibly have a novel completed.

My question is: does editing count as writing when people say, “You should write every day”? Do they really mean to say, “You should work on your fiction every day?” Editing, after all, is an important part of the writing process, one that can teach you a lot, and I prefer, when possible, to work on one project at a time. I’m a grad student, so between my teacher and student duties it can be hard to find time each day to BOTH edit a completed draft and add to one in progress. I’ve always felt that as long I wrote OR edited each day, I’m in the clear. Right now I’m in an editing phase concerning my trilogy. I’m getting “The Magic Council” (part II) in shape for its November release and also smoothing out the first draft of “The King’s Sons” (part III) for beta readers. I’m excited to start drafting a prequel, but I need a while before my ideas are developed enough to start writing and I can find the time to write. First priority is the trilogy: I don’t want to rush releases, but I’d like to get the entire set, as  a quality product, out as soon as I can. I just wondered what other people felt about this writing/editing question? Please leave a comment with your thoughts/opinion. Thanks!

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10 responses to ““Write Every Day,” They Say: Does Editing Count?

  1. If it didn’t count then when IS the editing supposed to get done(d)? Sheesh ;p

  2. I don’t – and can’t – write on my novels every single day. (I also can’t manage to take vitamins every day, exercise every day, or make my bed every day! I do manage to eat, journal and be nice almost every day, though.) I’m a project person, in most things. I don’t tidy the pantry, I demo it, hang new shelving, and get fancy containers for the cereal. I rearrange and reorganize my office instead of just straightening it up. I start throwing clothes in bags for Goodwill instead of putting away the laundry… Just the way my brain works, for better or worse. So when I’m working on a novel, I typically get the first draft done in somewhere between 21 and 40 days. I write an average of 3600 words a day, take a few days off here and there, and finish around 90k. If someone said that I HAD to take a year to write a novel, the novel wouldn’t get written, or it would be done in the last month. I simply can’t sustain my thoughts, interest or enthusiasm that long. So for me, the answer is obvious – write like a maniac, then edit. Then write. Then edit. (Right now I’m having to do both at once with a surgery coming up, and it’s HARD to do!) I think we have to find what works for us, so we get things written and completed, but also enjoy the process. My two cents!

  3. Editing counts! How else will you improve? And it does keep the story momentum going.

  4. Well, editing a previous work doesn’t help you keep up momentum on your new project. On the other hand, editing helps you iron out your writing style and make note of things you’d like to improve on, that you can then apply to your new project. So I’d say, if you’re doing the “write every day” thing, editing does count, but you’ll probably want to write just a little bit as well to keep the story fresh 🙂

  5. I’m not Stephen King, but I’ve been writing longer than I have been kissing girls.

    I doubted my ability to be a writer, though, when my confidence got lost in the shuffle of scheduling. “Don’t re-write, just write,” people would say, and suddenly, I’m staring at thousands of words of junk that I’m apparently not allowed to edit…?

    Any work you do on a project counts. It starts not-counting (or un-counting, or something like that) when you aren’t doing anything; when you are hiding in your closet because you don’t want to confront it, or when it’s hiding in your closet because it’s been stuffed under three years worth of season changes.

    You’re editing to make it better, right? To make it shine, to test-drive an unfinished project to make sure it’s safe for the market.

    It absolutely, 100%, completely counts!

  6. Personally ‘write every day’ means ‘make progress everyday’. Editing is progress. Of course, editing say, two pages, is quicker and easier than writing two pages.

  7. Pingback: I Can’t Stop Editing This Work In Progress. GOOD SIGN! | Creative Writing with the Crimson League

  8. I was just thinking this question myself and found your blog. 🙂 I guess it does count as writing because it’s one step closer to finishing your written piece. I would add that blogging, writing everyday things like emails, letters, reports, etc. count as well.

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